Rei 6: The Programmable Human
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
A little late, but... Happy Solstice (or Merry Christmas, if you prefer something less astronomical). Keep safe, and may your daylight hours get longer if you live at a sufficiently high latitude. Seasonal affectivity is serious business.
On Christmas Eve, khara dropped Shin’s first full-length trailer (本予告), which is exciting in the usual “my brain feels like it’s been put through a meat grinder” kind of way. With this new trailer to cover, and more glimpses of Shin footage surely on the way, I’ll probably abandon any pretense of completing that "series" on trailer #3. (The idea wasn’t working out well as I’d hoped, besides.) I’ll start sharing my thoughts on trailer #4 in a couple of days — a lot of it will be extremely strange, so get your body ready — and meantime here’s the post that was scheduled for… uh… well, never mind that. *sweatdrop*
This time, I’m going to talk a bit about Rei 6, starting with her humble origins, and weaving some speculation about where she might be headed. This acts as an informal followup to “Secrets of the Ayanami Series”, so definitely read at least part 2 of that first.
NTE makes the decision of leaving several Reis to the obscurity of the Ha-Q interim, forcing the audience into a jumpy transition from Rei 2, who became part of Eva-01 at the end of Ha, to Rei 6.
A prototype Ayanami presumably like #2 was, #6’s history is shrouded in mystery. She is under the jurisdiction of Seele and takes orders directly from them, apparently through the use of her facility, and at some point she was prepared for use as Mark.09’s provisional pilot. Unlike Rei 2, Gendo never endowed her with Yui’s psychological data, and she contains a Seele program instead. Nothing else is known, but it’s possible she has not been “awake” for very long at all. If she was the last of the early Ayanami models, perhaps she was simply kept in storage and more advanced models used instead, until finally there was a use for her.
When we first meet her, she behaves in an automaton-like manner, with only a dissociated sense that maybe she’s supposed to be someone named “Rei Ayanami” (with her constant reiteration of “Is that something Rei Ayanami would do?”), her entire world limited to awaiting her next orders from Seele and then carrying them out. Anything else, and she either doesn’t know about it (“I don’t know” is another refrain of hers) or she is so indifferent that the thing may as well not exist at all (e.g., she shows no curiosity about the books that Shinji brings to her).
Right before the shogi scene, we see Rei 6 soaking in her tube, and here she is visited by a mysterious uniformed “Quantum Rei”, reminiscent of the one that appeared before Shinji in Jo.
This is perhaps the first time that #6 provides a “human” response to anything; she has a startled expression and reflexively expels all the air from her lungs. It would be quite natural for her to dismiss the experience as a trick of the senses, yet it could also get the gears turning in her head at last, initiating the process by which she might jolt awake from the apathetic status quo she’d been living.
Not long after, during the trip to Central Dogma, Shinji cruelly remarks, “She’s not Ayanami anyway” — and this prompts a visibly emotional response from Rei.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say she was upset by it. This doesn’t stop her from doing her duty, of course, but it’s an important keystone, since it causes her to start questioning her reality. Mari helps push things along further with her taunts; and fittingly, Mari -- who makes #6 aware that she has an "original" --
Hello, Seele's provisional pilot.
I know you can hear me.
I suggest you clear out of there before you become part of Adams' Vessel.
I wasn't ordered to.
You're so uptight...
You know, your original was a lot easier to get along with.
Original? A different me?
is channeling NGE!Rei (the "original" in a meta sense) through some subtle visual cues.
Rei 6 carrying out her orders to decapitate Mark.06 with the scythe results in the Seele program activating, taking over the Eva’s control system and trapping her inside the entry plug. And notice here how her line of vision moves up right after her monitors go dark.
I made the first frame of the GIF hold extra long so you can take in how Rei's gaze abruptly shifts up -- from the shapeshifting Angel, and onto something else. Despite the misleading way the scene cuts between Rei in her plug and Mk.9 standing in front of the Angel, Rei is actually beholding the Seele program with terror when she says this:
What is this?
This is... me.
Then what am I?
…and she realizes that it’s coming from her. Or, in her own words, it just is her, which is… a real bummer of an epiphany. While this is incredibly mysterious in the final film, Fuyutsuki’s cut dialogue makes it clear what’s going on.
The replica that brought you here is an Ayanami model prepared as Mk.09's provisional pilot, prototype #6.
Yui-kun's data isn't being transferred to it, so I suppose even Ikari has no interest That replica is running on Seele's program. It is not our concern.
Here, it's established that Reis can have data transferred to them and that Rei 6 is “running on Seele’s program”. This provides the context for interpreting Rei’s own remarks. She asks "What am I?", and the answer seems to be, in part, a piece of wetware for storing and running a program that she can’t consciously control.
Even if Rei can’t see the Angel, and can’t be talking about it when she says “This is me”, the visual juxtaposition used by the film
invites us to compare the 12th Angel/Mark.06/Lilith fusion to Rei’s predicament and draw further inferences. How in the world could that thing be like her, aside from being Rei-shaped? We know that Mark.06 was upgraded so it could function autonomously, presumably on a Seele program. So then… what was the “vessel” for the program? NTE doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to automated Eva control systems. The DMYSYS is core-tech with a symbol on it that conveys the image of someone shut inside a coffin, screaming. (Notice how the "lid" is made of core while the contents of the coffin are not...)
And its overall design resembles a person from the waist up.
A very distorted person, but a person nonetheless. And it’s rather heavily implied that the DMYSYS actually was somebody at some point: note how when it’s activated, the core texture goes “live”. (Contrast against the core of Eva-01 before Yui enters it, the cores of Angels who have died, Seele’s monoliths as they’re “shut off” one by one, and so forth.) Rei 6 is a flesh-and-blood person who hosts an automation program, so her being trapped in 09’s plug — and remember that Mk.09 is itself core-tech — follows the same basic analogy.
So in Mk.06’s case, are we again dealing with a “living program host” situation?
While not definitive, we do get a pretty strong hint. When the black serpentine form of 06+12th turns into core, look very closely. Remind you of anything?
It’s a meta reference to Ireul from NGE. With this connection, we can possibly reconstruct what happened. The 12th Angel attacked the MAGI, like Ireul did in NGE. Remember how defeating Ireul involved using a program to make it kill itself? Instead of an annihilation program being planted into the 12th, it was a Seele program. The Angel was basically brainwashed into being Seele’s slave — which is kind of fucked up, when you think about it. At that point, the Angel was drawn out of the MAGI somehow (as we know that the original MAGI survive onboard Wunder) and funneled into Mark.06.
Seele were forced to revise their scenario after Third Impact, which means that the 12th Angel would need its program updated somehow in order for it to conform with the changes. This is where I think Rei 6’s “orders” come in. Mark.09 is equipped with a specialized scythe, and I suspect its purpose was to update the Angel’s program. Rei waited for the Angel to merge completely with the Eva before she decapitated it. When the blade of the scythe cuts through Mark.06, it was also swiping across newly-created surface area. That’s when the data transfer happened.
If these inferences are correct, then we have our explanation for how Rei and the Angel are the same. They’re both life-forms that have been enslaved with collections of executable information planted inside their bodies. And to make matters worse, #6 has unknowingly helped perpetuate this system of evil against another being. Driven by its revised directive, the Angel singlemindedly pursues Seele's goal of resurrecting Lilith and creating the True Evangelion, relinquishing its own life in the process. If Mari was correct in her assertion that Rei would be absorbed by Mark.09 if she stayed inside it much longer, then Rei's fate might have ultimately been little different from the Angel's: after the program finishes running, the program's container is assimilated by one of Seele's Evas.
Having your mind used as a resource -- and a disposable one, at that -- against your will is an absolutely terrifying predicament. It's hard to think of many things more dehumanizing than that. But in spite of all this, Rei 6’s conscious aspect is ultimately able to win out. Eva-02 ripping off Mark.09’s head forces the program to reboot (I’m not clear why this is, since Mk.09 was operational and able to activate on the Seele program without a head altogether) and gives Rei an opportunity to eject from the Eva she’s been trapped inside. All because of this exchange:
What would Ayanami Rei do at a time like this?
How would I know?
What do YOU want to do?!
Amazingly, this artificial being who has been treated as nothing more than a provisional tool realizes that she has wants and needs of her own, and one of the things she wants is to preserve her own existence. Unlike Rei 2, she has no interest in sacrificing herself. Since she has no interpersonal connections, this does make sense in its own way, but it’s still incredible that she was able to overcome her conditioning and embrace her own sense of volition so quickly. It’s incredibly uplifting and up there as one of the most important moments in Q.
And then, acting upon her own desires, she seeks out the other pilots, and she joins them on a journey both literal and metaphorical. Away from the tomb in the sky where her story began, and toward new possibilities previously unimaginable. Next time, I'll look at the trajectory that Rei 6's character arc could potentially take over the course of Shin Evangelion. See you there!